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RPG Sourcebooks 0e-gaz-07

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Gazetteer 7 – The Northern Reaches

  • Publisher: TSR
  • Rules: Dungeons & Dragons BECMI
  • Developer:
  • Reference: gaz7 9230
Northern Reaches
gaz7 D&D BECMI Northern Reaches

NOTE: The print version of this title does not include spine information.
Welcome to the Land of Vikings. Discover the berserk Jaris of Soderfjord, the Vikings of Vestland, and the fearsome Drakkars of Ostland. The Norther Reaches is a unique complement to your Gazetteer collection, providing detailed background on these three nations, their people, and many adventures, including

  • Separate players’ and DM’s booklets-96 pages in all!
  • Large, full-color map
  • A complete 3-D Viking village
  • 32 pages of exciting adventures in The Northern Reaches
  • New Runic Magic for the D&D game
  • Gates to the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set
  • Product History

GAZ7: “The Northern Reaches” (1988), by Ken Rolston and Elizabeth Danforth, is the seventh book in the “GAZ” series of Gazetteers for the Known World. It was published in July 1988.

Continuing the “GAZ” Sourcebooks. As the seventh book in the “GAZ” series, “The Northern Reaches” continued to detail the lands of the Known World. However, it also made some changes to the format of the previous volumes. To start with, it detailed three different realms: Ostland, the Soderfjord Jarldoms, and Vestland. Admittedly, they’re all viking-influenced lands in the north, and so somewhat related.

However, the biggest change in “The Northern Reaches” was in its presentation. Though many of the previous “GAZ” books had included a player section, they were typically pretty short — running as an 8-page pullout. “The Northern Reaches” is instead split into two different books: a 64-page GM book and a 32-page players book.

The players book is mostly crunch, including an extended section on creating Northman characters; this sort of location-specific player information was largely unknown at the time, and foreshadowed the crunchy splat books of the ’90s, including TSR’s very popular “PHBR” series (1989-1995). The players book also includes a “What Everyone Knows” section, which is told in-character. Rolston included a similar section in GAZ2: “The Emirates of Ylaruam” (1987), probably influenced by his work on Chaosium’s RuneQuest (1978+).

Finally, “The Northern Reaches” continued the trend begun in GAZ6: “The Dwarves of Rockhome” (1988) of including notes about adapting the book for use with AD&D. This showed the decline of Basic D&D — once TSR’s top product — and the rise of the AD&D line.

Expanding Basic D&D. The sales decline of Basic D&D took it out of the spotlight, which gave it the ability to be more experimental. This was seen as far back as Mentzer’s BECMI rules sets (1983-1986). This trend of experimental rules also continued in “The Northern Reaches”, which moved toward lifepath character creation with “important past experiences”, “afflictions and accidents”, and more fun random tables. It also polished the skill system from GAZ1: “The Grand Duchy of Karameikos” (1987).

However the most notable new rules in “The Northern Reaches” described optional “personal traits”. These were borrowed directly from Chaosium’s King Arthur Pendragon RPG (1985); they presented paired traits like “Honest / Deceitful” and “Cautious / Rash” that could influence character actions. This sort of emotional characteristic was still very innovative in RPGs in the ’80s, but it would be the system’s only appearance in the Basic D&D game.

Vikings in D&D. Prior to “The Northern Reaches”, TSR had published a few articles on Vikings in Dragon #69 (January 1983), Imagine #30 (September 1985), and a few other places. Northmen also appeared as an adversary in FR2: “Moonshae” (1987). However, “The Northern Reaches” was the first look at a Viking-like people as the central protagonist of a setting. Vikings would return to the central stage in HR1: Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (1992).

Expanding the Known World. “The Northern Reaches” was the book that really solidified the idea of reimagining Earth societies as countries in the Known World. Before that, the arabic-like GAZ2: “The Emirates of Ylaruam” (1987), also by Rolston, was the only other supplement to focus on this trope — though it was also lightly touched upon in the multinational GAZ3: “The Principalities of Glantri” (1987) and elsewhere. “The Northern Reaches” was also more explicit than its predecessors in this connection, even suggesting Viking source material for GMs to read.

Within the context of the Known World, “The Northern Reaches” detailed three countries: Ostland, the Soderfjord Jarldoms, and Vestland. Of these, only Vestland had gotten much attention previously, appearing in X3: “Curse of Xanathon” (1983) and X13: “Crown of Ancient Glory” (1987).

About the Creators. “The Northern Reaches” was Rolston’s second Vikings book, following his coauthorship of RuneQuest Vikings (1985). It was his last work for TSR until HR2: Charlemagne’s Paladins Campaign Sourcebook (1992), a few years later.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons—a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

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By thedarkelf007

I am a long term gamer, I run 6 RPG's a fortnight, host board game, card game and LANs each about once a quarter and have an addiction to buying more games. Games I am currently running are Pathfinder (1st and 2nd Edition) and Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition).

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